As American society becomes more accepting of the gay and lesbian community, athletes are finding comfort in coming out. NBA player Jason Collins came out last summer to nationwide support from the media, fans and his counterparts. And when Dana White signed Liz Carmouche prior to UFC 157, he praised Carmouche’s bravery in being the first openly gay MMA fighter.
Transgender athletes, however, don’t have as strong of a support system. To many they are pariahs; people who went under the knife in an ill-advised effort to become another person. In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, Fallon Fox opened up about such experiences in becoming MMA’s first transgender fighter.
“MMA is the most dangerous sport there is for a transgender, with all the body contact, I know that,” Fox told GQ’s Nancy Hass. “But it just turned out that I was good at it, you know? You pursue what you’re good at…. I realize that it’s kind of amazing that I hit girls. You’re brought up not to hit girls, that it’s the worst sin, and that’s what I do. But you know, gender is the last thing I think about when I’m fighting. It’s the one situation where I don’t think of gender at all.”
The article follows Fox as she prepared to face Ashlee Evans-Smith last October. Along the way, Fox recounts how her parents thought a then-named Boyd Burton was a gay man who just needed to be cured. Following her 2006 sex change, Fox found solace in MMA. She watched YouTube clips of Japanese female fighters and fell in love with the sport.
“The female fighters were tough but really womanly,” she said. “Dark and powerful. That was my version of femme.”
As a result of her surgery, Fox has drastically low testosterone levels which she must maintain to compete and her bone density has also dropped to what a comparable woman of her size would be. Regardless, Fox continuously face scrutiny from fellow fighters. And, surprisingly, that scrutiny comes from women who “want to beat a woman who used to be a man.”
Even though she lost to Evans-Smith, Fox believes it showed the world that she is vulnerable just like every other fighter. “I guess this means that people will realize that I’m just a woman after all. I’m female. I’m human. Sometimes I dominate and sometimes I’m dominated.”